Something was in the air. In his studio in the basement of
, Jack Muller sniffed the air experimentally. All that he could smell was the acrid scent of
the kilns, baking his latest set of bowls that he promised a gift store he’d
deliver before the end of the week—after slapping an obscene price tag on each
and every one of them. Upriver
Jack frowned, his massive arms crossed over his pot belly. It wasn’t the smell of the kilns that he was sensing, it was something else, something invisible that seemed to be wafting through the halls of Upriver like a toxic gas that was sooner or later going to take down each and every one of them.
The rest of the staff had been in rotten moods for months but this past week had been something else. That witch Scarlett had just about taken his head off when he’d asked her if she’d ever be interested in a little old roll in the hay. Geez, he was just kidding. Didn’t anyone have a sense of humor any more? And then there was Luna, Scarlett’s little protégé, who hadn’t even talked to Jack since Christmas. Not that Jack really cared. He liked women with at least a little meat on their bones and Luna looked like a walking skeleton.
Then there was Lucy. Lucy had been extra nasty to him lately too. Something was up. Something was going on that he didn’t know about. Not that there was anything unusual about that. Jack was almost always out of the loop when it came to what was happening at the school. His boss Dick and his little tag team of Scarlett and Gaylord kept everyone else at arm’s length. Most of the time Jack didn’t give a damn but he had a creepy feeling that maybe this time he should pay closer attention. With the attendance at Upriver sinking lower and lower every semester, he knew the school was in trouble. Plus the state was making a lot of noises lately too, noises that sounded ominously like doors slamming and paychecks not being cut.
Jack wasn’t sure what he’d do if the school closed. It wasn’t like he had any other talents that he could cash in on. At least none that paid as well as Schuylar Square Charter School. Hell, Jack wasn’t even a real teacher and he was pulling in over fifty big ones a year. Where else would he make that kind of dough for doing so little work? Not with his pottery. That was basically crap and he knew it. He was fifty-five years old, more than a little brain-addled from way too much weed, and he didn’t want to start all over again.
He couldn’t start all over again.
Jack gave himself a shake. He might detest Dick and Scarlett and Gaylord, but they were all in the same boat that he was and Jack was positive that they weren’t about to let it sink. Plus Dick and Scarlett were a lot closer to retirement than he was. They had more at stake than anyone else.
“What am I talking about?” Jack said out loud. “I haven’t heard word one about the school closing. Why am I getting all bent out of shape?”
“Talking to yourself again, Jack?” Crystal Brewer walked into the room.
Jack grinned at her. Finally, a female who wasn’t a total witch. “How's my favorite aide?”
“Hung over. Got anything on you that might make me feel better?”
“Jack! I thought I could always count on you.”
Jack shook his furry head. “I told you; I’m being good. I’ve even given up smoking.”
“I’m just trying to do the right thing.”
Jack laughed too. She knew him too well “Well, maybe I do have something that might make us both feel better out in my car,” he said. "We could split a forty."
“I know, I know. Mr. Boy Scout would fire us both.”
“I wish Dick would die,”
pleasantly as the left the art room. “Do you need to do anything about those
“They’ll be fine,” Jack replied. Closing the door behind them, Jack led the way to the parking lot. A moment later one of the kilns made a loud cracking noise but there was no one there to hear it.